Press and Media
From the opening bars of The Four Seasons' "Oh What A Night," it's clear that the Geffen Playhouse's December offering isn't going to be your traditional Christmas revue. In fact, Broadway Holiday splits its songs almost equally between the two words of its title, its cast of five Great White Way vets serenading their Westwood audience with a baker's dozen of Broadway's Greatest Hits and about as many holiday favorites.
Though our vast pool of L.A.-based triple threats make Broadway Holiday less of an event here than in Dayton, Ohio (where it debuted a year ago), there is something particularly thrilling about hearing Ivan Rutherford (over 2000 performances as Jean Valjean in Les Miz) singing "Bring Him Home," or Rita Harvey (one of Broadway's Christines) performing the title song from The Phantom Of The Opera, or song-and-dance man extraordinaire Jeffry Denman singin' and dancin' to "Singing In The Rain" on the stage of one of L.A.'s premiere theaters. Adding to the evening's entertaiment value are Carter Calvert, one of the stars of 1999's Tony-nominated It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues, belting the heck out of "Don't Rain On My Parade," and Marc Kudisch (with a dozen or so Broadway shows on his résumé), giving Geffen audiences the chance to choose between hearing "Some Enchanted Evening" or "Where Is The Life That Late I Led?" (Opening night's audience applauded louder for the latter and got it, delightfully rendered by the Ovation-nominated star of Reprise's Zorba a few years back.)
Among Broadway Holiday's other non-holiday highlights are Denman showing off his tapping feet in "Give My Regards To Broadway," Harvey lending her glorious soprano to "Think Of Me" and "I Could Have Danced All Night," Rutherford reprising his role as Tony in West Side Story with "Something's Coming," Kudisch channeling his inner Tevye with "If I Were A Rich Man," and Calvert singing "Memories" about as movingly as it's ever been sung. As for Kander & Ebb's "He Had It Coming," the Chicago showstopper proves even more show-stopping when performed by murderers of both genders: Calvert, Denman, Harvey, and Kudisch in deliciously homicidal mode.
Act One features only three holiday tunes, an ensemble performance of "We Need A Little Christmas" from Broadway's Mame, Calvert and Harvey duetting "Hard Candy Christmas" with country soul, and Kudisch's delightfully Grinchy "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch." The bulk of holiday favorites get sung after intermission, Act Two opening with a jazzy "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and continuing with "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas," "Carol Of The Bells," and "Oh Holy Night."
As for Geffen subscribers and patrons of the Jewish persuasion, they need not feel overlooked by Broadway Holiday. In fact, Kudisch's rendition of "A Lonely Jew On Christmas" (from TV's South Park) may well get the evening's biggest laughs and cheers, with lyrics like "Instead of eating ham I have to eat Kosher Latkes"—that is until Kudisch and Denman perform dueling renditions of "Oh Hanukah" and "Oh Christmas Tree," which bring the house down.
Since no holiday show would be complete without (Jewish) Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (Denman starred in the Broadway adaptation), the entire cast join voices in the evening's nostalgic finale.
With creator/musical director Neil Berg on piano (Roger Cohen on drums and Mickey Hachey on bass), the the onstage fivesome deliver absolutely splendid performances. The Geffen stage is adorned with not one or two or three but four Christmas trees (and one Hanukah banner)—scenic design and concepts by Patrick Keough. Denman gets high marks for choreographing his numbers (and any other dancey moments). Brett Nichols is production stage manager.
The New York-based onstage talents seemed delighted to be enjoying the warmer (though currently rainy) L.A. weather. Geffen audiences can be equally pleased to have these Broadway/regional theater voices in our midst for the next few weeks.
Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles. Through January 2. See website for detailed schedule.